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Duluth tables rezoning of fire station property

DULUTH -- The Duluth City Council on Monday tabled a request to rezone the former Gwinnett County Fire Station No. 7 property to allow the city planning staff and the rezoning applicant to explore options that would allow a landscaping company to operate on the site.

Blake Manton, representing Manton Brothers LLC, sought to rezone the 1.94 acres along Duluth Highway (Ga. Highway 120) from R-100 (single-family residential) to C-2 (general business district).

The applicant purchased the fire station site after it was abandoned by the county and proposed to adapt and expand the existing one-story structure from 3,100 square feet to 7,600 square feet to serve as an office for ImageScapes, a Duluth-based landscaping business he owns with his brother Brinson.

Their plans also called for leasing property adjacent to the north owned by Georgia Power to park commercial vehicles such as landscaping trucks, front-end loaders and materials related to the landscaping trade.

The city's planning commission voted 5-0 to recommend denial of the rezoning at its December meeting because the city's new 2030 Comprehensive Plan identifies the future land use of the property as public institutional, according to Duluth Planning Director Cliff Cross.

An attorney representing the Zion Korean United Methodist Church spoke in opposition to the rezoning at the planning commission meeting.

Cross recommended that the applicant modify the rezoning request to O-I (office-institutional), which would allow the landscaping company to operate a contractor's office there with outdoor storage.

The Georgia Power property would need to be rezoned to M-1 (light industry) for outdoor storage to be allowed on it, Cross said. Its current C-1 zoning does not allow outdoor storage, he said.

Manton indicated he was amenable to changing the rezoning request for the fire station property from C-2 to O-I, but would need to approach Georgia Power about rezoning its property to M-1.

"We're a good business that would like to stay here," Manton said.

The applicant also had sought a waiver of conditions prohibiting outdoor storage on the fire station site and waiver of requirements for fencing and roofing materials. In addition, he had requested waiver of a requirement that all development in the Downtown Overlay District contain buildings with a minimum height of two stories.

Cross suggested that removing the fire station property from the overlay district would eliminate these restrictions and requirements. This would require an amendment be presented to the planning commission for recommendation and then adoption by the City Council, Cross said.

Greg Lock, chairman of the planning commission, expressed support for the options suggested by Cross.

Duluth Municipal Court Judge Charles Barrett swore in Council Member Marsha Bomar to a second four-year term. Bomar will serve as mayor pro tem for 2010.

The council accepted an $184,000 Community Development Block Grant for improvements to Donnaville Street.

Mayor Nancy Harris displayed a sign declaring Duluth as the hometown of 1980 Heisman Trophy winner George Rogers. Five signs will be posted at entrances to the city.

The council accepted the FY09 Audit Report on the city's financial matters prepared by Mauldin & Jenkins. The city received a "clean" report, according to the city's Finance Committee Chairman Bradley Carroll.